Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew will be departing “Grey’s Anatomy” at the end of the season.
The long-running ABC medical drama has not been officially renewed for a 15th season, but the show is widely expected to return next fall given its strong ratings and a new deal for series lead Ellen Pompeo that runs through Season 16.
Capshaw has starred as Arizona Robbins on the show since Season 5, and Drew has played April Kepner since Season 6. Their departures are said to have been the decision of the producers, including co-showrunner Kistra Vernoff and creator Shonda Rhimes, who addressed the news in a pair of statements on Thursday.
“The characters of Arizona and April are permanently woven into the fabric of Grey’s Anatomy thanks to the extraordinary work of Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew,” said Vernoff. “As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses.”
“It’s always hard for me to say goodbye to any of my characters,” said Rhimes. “Both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner are not only beloved but iconic — both the LBGTQ and devout Christian communities are underrepresented on TV. I will be forever grateful to both Jessica and Sarah for bringing these characters to life with such vibrant performance and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family.
In a separate statement on Twitter, Vernoff pushed back on the notion that Capshaw and Drew’s exit was connected to Pompeo’s high-dollar contract, calling the insinuation “wrong and hurtful and misguided.”
“”It smacks of an old, broken, patriarchal notion that women must be pitted against each other and that one woman’s success will be costly to others. Ellen Pompeo has not only advocated passionately for her fellow cast members, she has taken the time to educate women worldwide as to how to advocate for themselves and that must not now be twisted,” she wrote.
— Krista Vernoff (@KristaVernoff) March 8, 2018
Drew also addressed the announcement on Twitter, saying she has yet to fully process the news herself. “For now, I’d like to say: I love you, and I love April, and her story isn’t over yet,” she wrote.
In her own post, Capshaw wrote, “I am grateful that I have gotten to bring [Arizona] to life and for the life that she has brought to me. I am sad to see her go but I am consoled by the idea that she will continue to live on and on in all of our consciences and our imaginations. Shonda, thank you for the ride on this incredible rollercoaster.”
— Sarah Drew (@sarahdrew) March 8, 2018
— Jessica Capshaw (@JessicaCapshaw) March 8, 2018
Deadline was the first to report the news.